Tuesday’s title match defeat for the Blue Samurai saw Japan lose the UFWC title, and saw North Korea crowned the new Unofficial Football World Champions. We’ll be dedicating plenty of time to the new champions over the next few days, but first we’re taking a look back over Japan’s exciting and memorable reign as champions.
New to the UFWC? Read our Beginner’s Guide.
Few sets of supporters have embraced the UFWC as wholeheartedly as the Japanese. 2011 was an incredibly difficult year for Japan, and will of course be remembered in history for the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the nation in March. Several national team matches were cancelled and the league programme was suspended as a result. Japan were forced to pull out of the Copa America, which could have pushed their UFWC reign in an entirely different direction. However, Japan was quick to return to football, and this is how the past year or so eventually played out:
The Blue Samurai held the UFWC title for 16 matches, spanning more than 12 months, from October 2010 to November 2011. Of those 16 matches, Japan won 11 and drew 5, scoring 33 goals along the way. In terms of longevity, it doesn’t quite match the Netherlands’ recent record-breaking run of 21 matches as champions from November 2008 to July 2010, but it’s still a very impressive reign.
Japan took the UFWC title in October 2010 with a 1-0 win over previous champions Argentina – Messi, Tevez, Milito and all. At the Asian Cup in Qatar in January, Japan thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0, beat the hosts in a 3-2 thriller courtesy of a last minute goal, and then played out an amazing semi-final match against South Korea. The score was 1-1 after 90 minutes, and 2-2 after extra time, before Japan won 3-0 on penalties.
Then came the Asian Cup final against Australia, another epic match, settled by an extra-time goal from Tadanari Lee. Japan were AFC champions as well as UFWC champions. Among the other highlights of the reign have been a 3-0 win over South Korea in August, and two huge wins over Tajikistan – 8-0 and 4-0 – in October and November of this year.
Japan scored 33 goals in their 16 games as UFWC champions. Shinji Okasaki scored Japan’s winner against Argentina, and the fourth goal in the most recent game against Tajikistan – the first and last goals of the reign. He scored two in that Tajikistan game, and two in the previous game against the same opponents, and also scored a hat-trick against Saudi Arabia in January. His total of 9 goals makes Okasaki Japan’s top goalscorer in the UFWC. Japan’s UFWC goalscorers are:
Okazaki (9); Kagawa (6); Maeda (4); Honda (2); Yoshida (2); Havenaar (2), Lee (2); Hasebe; Hosogai; Inoha; Konno; Komano, Nakamura.
The full list of Japan’s results during their reign as UFWC champions is as follows (click for match reports):
08/10/10 JAPAN 1-0 ARGENTINA Friendly, Saitama
12/10/10 SOUTH KOREA 0-0 JAPAN Friendly, Seoul
09/01/11 JAPAN 1-1 JORDAN Asian Cup, Doha
13/01/11 SYRIA 1-2 JAPAN Asian Cup, Doha
17/01/11 SAUDI ARABIA 0-5 JAPAN Asian Cup, Al Rayyan
21/01/11 JAPAN 3-2 QATAR Asian Cup, Doha
25/01/11 JAPAN 2-2 SOUTH KOREA (JAPAN WIN ON PENS) Asian Cup, Doha
29/01/11 JAPAN 1-0 AUSTRALIA Asian Cup Final, Doha
01/06/11 JAPAN 0-0 PERU Friendly, Niigata
07/06/11 JAPAN 0-0 CZECH REPUBLIC Friendly, Kanagawa
10/08/11 JAPAN 3-0 SOUTH KOREA Friendly, Sapporo
02/09/11 JAPAN 1-0 NORTH KOREA World Cup Qualifier, Saitama
06/09/11 UZBEKISTAN 1-1 JAPAN World Cup Qualifier, Tashkent
07/10/11 JAPAN 1-0 VIETNAM FR Kobe
11/10/11 JAPAN 8-0 TAJIKISTAN WCQ Osaka
11/11/11 TAJIKISTAN 0-4 JAPAN WCQ Dushanbe
15/11/11 NORTH KOREA 1-0 JAPAN WCQ Pyongyang
Japan’s 11 UFWC title match wins translate to 11 UFWC ranking points (no points are awarded for draws). This means that, having been completely unranked just over a year ago, Japan has now climbed into the top 20 UFWC rankings, standing in 17th position, level on points with Chile and Greece. Japan have also risen to 17th place in the FIFA rankings, having been ranked 30th before their UFWC run. The all-time UFWC top 20 currently reads:
|1 SCOTLAND 86
2 ENGLAND 73
3 ARGENTINA 51
4 NETHERLANDS 49
5 RUSSIA 41
6 BRAZIL 29
7 GERMANY 27
7 ITALY 27
9 SWEDEN 26
10 FRANCE 25
11 HUNGARY 17
11 SPAIN 17
13 URUGUAY 16
14 CZECH REP 15
15 AUSTRIA 12
15 WALES 12
17 CHILE 11
17 GREECE 11
17 JAPAN 11
20 SWITZERLAND 10
Full rankings table
So Japan’s run as UFWC champions is over, for now. With the title still in Asia, there is always the chance that the Blue Samurai will get the opportunity to become unofficial champions once again in the near future. It’s to be hoped that Japanese fans have enjoyed their team’s run, and will continue to follow the UFWC.
So farewell and good luck to Japan. North Korea’s time has come, and we will take a closer look at the new unofficial football champions over the next few days.